May 30, 2008
PHILIP HAHN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
BERGEN REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Docket No. L-148-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted May 12, 2008
Before Judges Graves and Sabatino.
Plaintiff Philip Hahn appeals from an order dated August 3, 2007, granting summary judgment in favor of defendant, Bergen Regional Medical Center. We affirm.
In his complaint, plaintiff alleged he was "wrongfully diagnosed and admitted" to a medical program at Bergen Regional Medical Center on May 23, 2005. And during oral argument on August 3, 2007, plaintiff advised the trial court as follows:
I was taken to the emergency room at Bergen Regional Medical Center on the 14th of April. Screened and admitted for a three-week program at which point I was released and it was recommended that I go into a day program. And the complaint that you have before you, [Docket No. L-148-07], regards that treatment.
Now, from the time I was picked up by the police until the time I was discharged and it recommended that I go into the day treatment program, I was never given an opportunity to address . . . the reasons for my commitment . . . .
And I think that . . . it was just . . . the hospital reached the wrong conclusions. I mean . . . there are things in the records that are clearly wrong, you know, things like I was sending letters to my neighbors. This is clearly wrong, . . . there's things in my records that say things like I can't handle money. I mean . . . items were simply checked off by the admitting staff without asking me any questions whatsoever.
So, definitely from a good faith point of view . . . the hospital staff . . . can't be granted immunity.
Nevertheless, the court ruled that defendant was entitled to immunity under N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.7(a) as a matter of law. On appeal, plaintiff makes the following arguments in his pro se brief:
COMMENT ON DEFENDANT'S ORIGINAL BRIEF IN SUPPORT OF MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT.
PLAINTIFF CLAIMS COURT ERRED IN GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT BEFORE DISCOVERY WAS ALLOWED TO OCCUR.
PLAINTIFF FURTHER CLAIMS COURT ERRED IN GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT AS GENUINE DISPUTE OF MATERIAL FACTS EXISTS.
PLAINTIFF FURTHER CLAIMS THAT COURT ERRED IN GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT AS DEFENDANT IS NOT STATUTORILY IMMUNED FROM LITIGATION AS THE DEFENDANT FAILED TO COMPLY WITH THE PROVISIONS OF [N.J.S.A.] 30:4-27.7.
IMMUNITY UNWARRANTED UNDER N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.7.
PLAINTIFF FURTHER CLAIMS THAT COURT ERRED IN GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT AS A PRIMA [FACIE] CASE THAT IF WON WILL ULTIMATELY ENTITLE HIM TO JUDGMENT HAD BEEN PRESENTED BY THE PLAINTIFF.
PLAINTIFF NOT ADMITTED PURSUANT TO [N.J.S.A.] 30:4-27.1.
CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE.
PLAINTIFF NOT MENTALLY ILL NO NEED FOR TREATMENT.
After considering these contentions in light of the record and applicable law, we are satisfied they do not warrant extended discussion in a written decision. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E).
Accordingly, we affirm with only the following comments. Although plaintiff contends he was involuntarily committed because "the hospital reached the wrong conclusions," he does not dispute that when the police brought him to Bergen Regional Medical Center, he was evaluated by Ms. Garbowski, a qualified mental health screener, who was not employed by defendant, and she determined plaintiff was in need of involuntary commitment because he showed evidence of mental illness, and he was "[d]angerous to others." It is also clear that Judge Kevin M. O'Halloran entered an order on May 6, 2005, approving plaintiff's conversion to voluntary status. See R. 4:74-7(g)(1) (requiring the court "to determine whether the patient had the capacity to make an informed decision to convert to voluntary status and whether the decision was made knowingly and voluntarily"). Based on these undisputed circumstances, we agree that defendant was entitled to immunity under N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.7 because there were no genuine issues of material fact regarding defendant's good faith. Ziemba v. Riverview Med. Ctr., 275 N.J. Super. 293, 300 (App. Div. 1994) ("[T]hose involved in the involuntary commitment process enjoy an absolute immunity from civil or criminal liability if they acted in good faith and took reasonable steps towards effectuating the commitment.").
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